Eric Gagne is going back to the bushes to try and revive a career that is a candidate for the standing eight count. Photo from this site.
Keith Foulke has company on the Ex-Red Sox Reliever Redemption Tour. Coming to a ballpark near you sometime in the next month (as long as you live in Quebec, I suspect) is Eric Gagne, who was last seen in Boston mopping up in the 2007 playoffs.
Gagne signed a deal with Quebec of the Can-Am League earlier this week, and if Foulke thinks he has it bad in the Atlantic League, he should be thankful he hasn’t fallen as far as Gagne, who is less than five years removed from the greatest run any closer has ever had. But arm troubles as well as a starring role in The Mitchell Report have ruined Gagne, who has played just one full season since 2004.
My guess is Gagne signed with Quebec not because he’s the local boy made good but because he had no other choice. The Can-Am League, which downsized from eight teams to six two months before tonight’s season opener, is one of those independent leagues that makes it tougher for the Atlantic Leagues of the world to be taken seriously as a legitimate feeder system for the big leagues.
Unlike the Atlantic League, which has sent hundreds of players back to affiliated ball and dozens to the majors, the Can-Am League is really the island of misfit toys: According to this press release, 14 Can-Am alumni began the season in affiliated ball (that list, for some reason, did not include ex-Sox reliever Craig Breslow, who played in the league in 2004). The Can-Am’s most famous alum is probably Oil Can Boyd, who pitched for Brockton in 2005 but is 18 years removed from his last big league pitch (geez, does that make me feel old) yet still harbors hopes of making a comeback.
Gagne will attempt to buck the odds by moving back into the rotation, which does make some sense as he tries to prove his arm is sound, And the Sox did win the World Series in 2007 despite Gagne’s complete lack of effectiveness, so I imagine the reception wouldn’t be too harsh if he did show up at one of the Can-Am outposts in New England.
Still, fans in New Hampshire (where the team is co-owned by Dan Duquette and managed by Brian Daubach; apparently, Rolando Arrojo wasn’t available to serve as pitching coach), Worcester (managed by Rich Gedman) and Brockton, not to mention the two teams in New Jersey, probably won’t get the chance to see Gagne pitch. Quebec owner Miles Wolff said landing Gagne was “…a big score” for Quebec as well as the league, but if Gagne remains in the rotation, it’s easy to envision him as a Quebec-only attraction and hard to imagine him taking bus rides into the lower 48 just to pitch once every five days.
Email Jerry at firstname.lastname@example.org.